Illustration of a root canal

Photo used with permission by Dr. Jeremy Kemp

Bulimia nervosa can be very damaging to teeth. The stomach acid that enters the mouth as a result of purging episodes will erode your dental enamel, leaving the teeth discolored and vulnerable to cracking, breaking, and loss.


bulimia teeth damage isn’t always obvious at first. This is because purging behavior exposes the backs of teeth to the most acid, which means that these hidden surfaces of your teeth may be much more damaged than you know. You may still be showing off a white smile to the world, but inside your mouth, your teeth may be entering the final stages of destruction and damage. It’s a parallel to the way many people with bulimia appear to friends and family: you may look healthy and happy, but inside you are suffering.

One of the dental problems that betrays the true state of your teeth is the need for a root canal, which for many bulimics is the first major sign that something is going on.

How Bulimia Leads to Root Canals

A root canal is a dental procedure performed when a tooth has become infected by the bacteria that normally lives in your mouth. Once inside your tooth, the bacteria might cause you significant pain, and, worse than that, it can spread into the bone of your jaw, your sinuses, other teeth, and even your brain.

Bulimia can put you at an increased risk for an infected tooth because it removes your dental enamel. The enamel isn’t just attractive, it’s protective, and when it’s gone, the dentin underneath is exposed. Dentin isn’t as resistant to bacterial and stomach acid, so it can erode or decay very quickly, allowing bacteria to penetrate into the area where the tooth nerve lives.

Most often, the tooth that succombs first is one of the upper front teeth, which take the brunt of acid exposure on their backs. The good news is, this is a very successful procedure that can protect and restore your damaged tooth. The bad news is, once one of them suffers this damage, it’s likely that others are soon to follow.

Heed the Warning

If you are a bulimic who has been told you need a root canal, it’s time to get treatment. It’s possible that if you get treatment now and stop your purging episodes you may be able to save your teeth and avoid the worst potential damage.

If you are a recovering bulimic in Orange County who is looking to restore your teeth, we can help. Please call (949) 551-5902 for an appointment with a cosmetic dentist at Rice Dentistry in Irvine.